COVID death at Oak Hill; new cases at Integrity

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Monroe County Health Department Administrator John Wagner confirmed Sunday that a resident of Oak Hill Senior Living & Rehabilitation in Waterloo has died of coronavirus, which is the second COVID-related death locally in the past week.

Wagner said he learned that someone at Oak Hill who had mild symptoms last week died Saturday morning after their symptoms worsened.

A relative confirmed the deceased as 88-year-old Catherine Kutterer.

“It was my grandmother,” Elizabeth Kutterer Sanchez posted on Facebook. “COVID is the worst! Just because something is initially reported as asymptomatic doesn’t mean that the individual hasn’t gotten worse. Pray for the rest of the people who now have it there that are still fighting it.”

On Thursday, Wagner reported that an 82-year-old man with underlying health conditions who was not associated with a long-term care facility died of the virus.

The coronavirus outbreak at Oak Hill had been the pandemic-related focus this past week.

Oak Hill had 11 residents and one staff member test positive for COVID-19 last week, with a couple of residents showing minor symptoms. On Saturday, Wagner said nine of the recent new cases in the county have been from Oak Hill, with eight residents and one staff member contracting the virus.

That brings the total as of Saturday to 21 cases associated with the Oak Hill outbreak – 17 are residents and four are staff members, per Wagner.

“They’ve done everything possible to keep it out of there,” Wagner said of Oak Hill. “There have been a few workers who have tested positive there since the start of this. It appears that it did get in there somehow, but hopefully we’ve got it locked down now and it’s not going to be a mass spread.” 

Wagner told the Monroe County Board on Monday he decided to have the people at Oak Hill who contracted the virus retested to be safe. 

“Something struck me odd with the initial test,” he said. “People at that age typically would not be the asymptomatic type. It could be we caught it right at the onset of the virus, but it warranted another test.”

The county received the results of the test later in the week, with two residents who previously tested positive now testing negative and three new cases being found, per Wagner. The residents are using the pharyngeal swab, which is the more accurate of tests.

“We’re still trying to figure out what’s going on,” Wagner said of the mixed test results.

Wagner also said Sunday that Integrity Healthcare of Columbia is experiencing an outbreak, with “three or four” residents there having the virus.

“They have something going on there, but they don’t show up on our totals because as soon as someone tests positive they move them (out of the county),” Wagner explained.

Wagner also confirmed the Illinois State Police visited Monroe County last week to see if bars and restaurants were complying with the latest mitigation measures aimed at curbing the spread of the virus.

“It was against my advisement for them to do that, but they came down anyway,” Wagner said, later noting the police appeared to have a list of establishments to visit.

“I’m really concerned with how it was done and why it was done,” Wagner said. “We weren’t having outbreaks at these establishments. They were pretty much abiding by Phase 4 requirements, just not the new mitigations, which is common throughout Region 4.”

The officers issued a few warnings, according to Wagner, but there is a dispute over their authority to do so. 

The ISP argues it is within their authority and jurisdiction, but Wagner contends it is not because mitigation measures are guidelines, not laws or rules that have passed through a formal process.

“They even cited a code that was not even accurate, that did not even exist,” Wagner said, adding he and the ISP will sort this out over the next few weeks.

Washy’s Saloon in Waterloo posted Sept. 18 on Facebook that it was one of the businesses “cited” Sept. 17 by the ISP for “not following (Gov. JB) Pritzker’s edicts.”

“It’s not worth the paper it’s written on,” the business posted. “If we were breaking any laws, they would have arrested us. We aren’t intimated, governor.”

For its part, the ISP said it was only doing its job.

“In response to a consistently high positivity rate in Region 4 and complaints about a small number of businesses violating public health rules, the Illinois Department of Public Health requested assistance from the ISP in our role of helping to enforce Illinois Department of Public Health emergency rules,” ISP Central Acting Deputy Chief Mindy Carroll said. “As outlined in the administrative rule, enforcement is an incremental process starting with a notice of non-compliance. If businesses continue to not comply, as has been the case in some instances in Region 4, state or local law enforcement can issue the business a misdemeanor citation, similar to enforcing indoor smoking laws. Local state’s attorneys determine how to proceed as they would in any other misdemeanor case.”

Monroe County has had 692 coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

Wagner reported 12 new cases Tuesday, 21 new cases Monday, one new case Sunday, two new cases Saturday, nine new cases Friday, five new cases Thursday and eight cases Wednesday.

At last count, there were 66 active cases and two residents hospitalized with the virus.

On Friday, Monroe County learned it did not make the IDPH list for being at the warning level, the second consecutive week it avoided that distinction.

For the week of Sept. 13, Monroe County had 134 cases per 100,000 people (the goal is 50 or fewer), but that was the only metric it did not pass.

Previous problematic metrics were test positivity rate, which was at 5.6 percent (the goal is less than or equal to 8 percent), and number of tests performed, which was 638 (the goal is to do enough tests to meet the positivity rate goal).

The county met the other metrics of number of deaths, emergency department visits and hospital admissions for COVID-19-like illnesses and ICU bed availability.

The region’s positivity rate is also trending down, though it has risen two days since Sept. 17. The metro east had a 7.2 percent test positivity rate as of Sept. 26.

The region has had one day of hospitalization increases since Sept. 17. It has 33 percent hospital availability and 38 percent ICU bed availability.

According to the state’s coronavirus resurgence mitigation plan, if the region’s positivity rate remains over 8 percent after current restrictions have been in place for two weeks, more mitigation measures may be implemented.

If it drops to an average between 6.5 and 8 percent, current restrictions will remain in place and the state will consider imposing more. If it falls to 6.5 percent or lower, current limitations will be lifted.

State Sen. Paul Schimpf (R-Waterloo) called for Pritzker to immediately lift the mitigations, alleging “major issues” with data used to determine their necessity. 

“As more and more facts call into question the accuracy of the positivity rate for Region 4, I find it unconscionable that the state of Illinois is shutting down businesses and destroying livelihoods based on a metric that is clearly neither meaningful nor accurate,” Schimpf said. “Gov. Pritzker needs to immediately lift the mitigation measures he imposed on our region several weeks ago.”

Schimpf said there are numerous issues with the state’s data, including that numbers from some of the largest area hospitals and health care facilities, like BJC HealthCare, were not counted until recently, negative tests results from Illinois residents who tested in Missouri are not tabulated and private labs may not submit negative test results. 

Wagner could not confirm any of those arguments, saying that data would go to higher levels of the IDPH.

Wagner did say, however, he believes Monroe County is getting at least most of the Missouri test results and noted he will soon know if labs fail to report negative results as children need them to return to school. 

Overall, the Waterloo zip code has had 351 cases (5,324 tests performed), the Columbia zip code has had 274 cases (1,991 tests) and the Valmeyer zip code has had 29 cases (229 tests), according to the IDPH.

In St. Clair County, there have been 7,490 total positive tests and 191 coronavirus-related deaths. A total of 88,182 tests have been performed there.

Randolph County has had 957 confirmed cases, 43 of which are active. Twelve people have died from the virus in that county. A total of 12,609 people have been tested there.

Statewide, there are 291,001 cases of coronavirus and 8,637 deaths, according to the IDPH.

Missouri has recorded 124,762 confirmed cases and 2,086 deaths as of Tuesday. That includes 23,152 cases in St. Louis County and 7,041 cases in St. Louis City, according to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services.

Nationally, more than 7.2 million people have contracted the virus, while at least 205,591 people have died.

Worldwide, there are over 33.4 million cases of coronavirus and at least 1 million COVID-19-related deaths.

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